Virtual Regionalism

The world is caught in the act of partition.

On the floor of the church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome is a small round disk, marking the most ideal point from which to view the ceiling of the church. The flat surface possesses all the rational economy of a classical dome but proper perspective is necessary to vault it upwards toward the heavens. Stand askew and it looks funny - animated with mutability and error. Perspective [from L. perspectus, pp. of perspicere "inspect, look through," from per- "through" + specere "look at"] transformed long ago into shorthand for the instantiation of a rational, well-oriented gaze.

How to pick up the idea it left behind – the possibility of looking through rather than at?

Virtual atmospheres puncture the surfaces of everything around us. The informational enrichment of the world means that any given moment each of us enacts a multiplicity of relationships if not precisely at the same time, then close. Real time. Virtual spaces are so embedded in daily life that shifts between embodied and informational presence are so frequent and mundane as to be almost not worth mentioning. These are the conditions walking down the street.

Digital devices pin down a point of contact between the virtual and physical places we occupy. It’s the job of the phone to keep its user connected to a bounded virtuality – to instantiate the distance between here and there.

In his essay Critical Regionalism, Kenneth Frampton calls for the inclusion of all the senses, not just vision, in the production of complex, tactile spaces. He writes, “the liberative importance of the tactile resides in the fact that it can only be decoded in terms of experience itself.” But the separation of presence, information, and vision is not the entire story. From any single point of departure, there are modes of living, shifts of mind, and conditions of material that cannot be found through experience. Looking through calls for a confederacy of presence and virtuality. A willful departitioning of the senses: the tactile and the informational, the rational and the coded. Looking through one place in order to see another imbues mediation with a sense of contingency that is a part of any encounter. There is no stable mechanism to look through one place and see another. An ethics of presence is extended through the mediated and the material. A virtual regionalism.